Go Back To Basics

715. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Yesterday in my post I wrote the word “aquifers” but at first badly mistyped it and wrote “aquafire.” Isn’t that a lovely word collision! It sounds like the name of a garage band! I did a quick Google search (is there any other kind?) and found that aquafire is the name of a restaurant in Fayetteville, Arkansas. It’s also the name of a water heater company in New Zealand! You’ll not be surprised to learn that it is also the name of a company that makes floating fire pits, a fire protection company specializing in sprinklers, a blog about fishing, and a sauna and steam bath company.

According to western classical thought there are 4 elements that combine to constitute all matter: earth, air, fire, and water. Aquafire, according to the classical way of thinking, might be steam or lava or acid or a good jalapeno salsa. Once, I was in the ocean and was clobbered by a wave and met the rocky coral bottom with some unintended force; I could consider that experience aquafire.

I like the notion of elements as applied to obstacles; I have been known to think, “It only looks like an enormous boulder in my path. Apply a little heat and then let’s see what you look like!” The boulder calls my bluff every time but the threat of combining elements always frees my imagination so I can see the many possibilities instead of the single impediment. Problems become possibilities almost immediately when you consider their elemental make-up: problems and possibilities are both ways of seeing; they are choices. So, a good question to ask is, “What is the basic element of choice?”

The Greeks (and others) added a 5th element or quintessence. The medieval scientists called it, “ether,” which was considered to be the element that filled the universe (above our atmosphere). To the Greeks, quintessence was the air breathed by the gods and was distinctly different than the air we mortals breathe. It was pure, essential. Essence. If there is a basic element to imagination, choice, possibility, memory, intuition, and inspiration, I’m certain it must be ether, a touch of quintessence, the breath of the gods made manifest here on earth in you and in me.

Live What’s Important

712. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I am sitting in the Seattle airport trying to remember the things I stressed about on this day ten years ago. I’m trying to remember the things that I thought were so important that I tensed over, felt frustrated about, anxious or angry. I can’t recall a single thing. If I broaden my view and ask what are the things I got worked-up about in the calendar year 2007, I remember a few events but the horror stories I told myself never came to pass. All the winning or losing in which I invested left only the slightest imprint. I suspect it took a toll on my body but in the end did it matter? Did my stress and anxiety make any difference in the arc of my life? No. Not once.

Today, as ran through the airport convinced that I was late for my flight, impatient for the train, angry with myself for not planning better, impatient with the security lines, I stopped cold in my tracks. I wondered if the story I was telling mattered. In the arc of my life, would it matter? No. What would happen if I missed my plane? It has happened before. I would figure it out. All of my stress was self-induced. I was not on a plane spinning out of control, I was not being chased by a hungry bear; stress in those cases would be welcome. My investment in my small world suddenly seemed silly. Ten years from now, when I am sitting in another airport, I will try and remember if all the things I thought were so important in February 2013 actually mattered. They won’t. I won’t even remember this race to a plane.

I’ve spent the past month writing about choice and becoming aware of the choices we have but do not see. I am, like all teachers, teaching what I most need to learn. I can report that once I stopped cold in my tracks and thought about it, I laughed at my dedication to stressing myself, and then walked very slowly to my gate. Even tempting fate I did not miss my plane.

I do not miss my stress. I certainly don’t need it. I stopped not beat myself up for my planning or lack of planning – that was nice. I took a breath. I even helped a man who lost his cell phone. I asked myself, “What’s really important?” I know I am trying to live the answer to that question.

Sense Half A Breath

690. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Last year Carol learned to sail. She went to the Center for Wooden Boats and took lessons from a man who’s been sailing all his life. He taught her that a sailor must learn to feel and see the elements just a moment ahead: he said she needed to sense what was a “half a breath ahead.” With the lead of “half a breath,” she could adjust, anticipate (not with her thinking mind, but with your knowing presence) what was coming. He taught her that it was folly to think that she could be any further ahead than half a breath, any further ahead and the conditions will have changed before she got there.

Today I stepped into my day believing I knew what I was going to do. The winds changed, the rains came, the sun broke through, the café closed, the phone rang, the rehearsal ended, the phone rang again, and finally I gave up and was surprised by Doctor Who. I stepped into the day invested in my folly fully believing that I could see beyond half a breath. I am still learning to sail and need to bring my sights much closer to my present moment. I close this day recognizing my folly and my lesson, sitting more easily in my boat, no further ahead than a single breath, knowing that although I am closer than I was this morning, I am still too long in my anticipation by half. And I hope that is always true.

Do The Dishes

649. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I’m at 37,000 feet. The coffee has been served. The trash has been picked up. The man sitting next to me is asleep, as are the people across the aisle. I see the flicker of movies or games on ipads; a baby somewhere behind me is fussy. We are in an aluminum tube hurtling through space at several hundred miles an hour and I am typing. And, as I look around me, I’d say that most of my plane-mates believe that flying through space is usual, mundane.

A hundred years ago very few people had seen the earth from the sky. A few people in balloons made it into the clouds. Now, hundreds of thousands of us soar through the sky everyday. I was reminded in the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas that it has only been 45 years since a human being saw the earth from space. We have been on this planet for thousands of years and the miracle of the earth was something we imagined but had never seen. I am in the first generation of humans to see a photograph of the earth from space. I remember seeing it for the first time and I gasped. Now, we think it commonplace. Sure, from space there are no boundaries, sure it looks alive (it is), but I imagine most of my globe-mates think it is usual, mundane.

It is the center of every spiritual practice, it is the task of the artist: what does it take to truly SEE. How do we develop our capacity to see what is right in front of us instead of seeing what we think is there? To think is to interpret. To think is to abstract; it is a veil that can blunt the immensity of experience. How do we become present to the enormity of being alive and cease to reduce our lives to the mundane?

Travel to another country and you will see. Fall in love and you will see. Climb to the top of a mountain and you will see. Stand in the river with the water rushing around your ankles and you will see. You will see because you want to see; you will enter your moment having decided to be there and nowhere else. You will see because you let go of the fog of knowing and allow yourself to not know. You will see because you have re-entered discovery. Do the dishes for the thousandth time. Do nothing else but simply feel the water on your wrists, smell the soap, the muscles in your hand as you hold the sponge. Feel your heart beating and you will recognize that you have never lived this moment, you’ve never breathed this breath, you’ve never done these dishes and you will come alive quite suddenly and see the miracle of your life.